LOS ANGELES – According to the NTSB, the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, the pilot and 6 others on January 26, was not caused by ‘catastrophic internal failure’, Reuters reports. The helicopter was on its way to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, when it crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, California, while flying in extreme foggy conditions, killing all people on board.
Although preliminary, there are no obvious signs of mechanical problems that could have caused the helicopter crash, killing one of the greatest basketball players of all time – Kobe Bryant (41), his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and all seven others on board the helicopter.
Kobe Bryant was on his way to a basketball tournament where his daughter Gianna and 2 other girls aboard the chopper were due to compete. He would act as a coach for the team. Other people on board the helicopter included parents of the 2 other girls and the basketball coach of the girls team.
Bryant’s death caused a lot of grief and shocked many fans and fellow athletes around the globe.
No signs of engine failure
The 2 engines of the Sikorsky S-76B, which crashed in bad weather on a hillside in Calabasas last month, showed no evidence of a “catastrophic internal failure,” federal investigators said in an NTSB interim report on Friday. The report also said examination showed both rotor assemblies found damage, which means that the helicopter had a consistent “powered rotation at the time of impact.”
The NTSB update in the investigation also said: “viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure.”
Jennifer Homendy – NTSB board member – said earlier that clouds, fog and low visibility reported in the area of the crash would be a key focus of the investigation, also due to videos and photographs taken by the public in the area, showing fog and low clouds obscuring the hilltops in the area of the crash. CCTV-footage also showed the luxury helicopter disappearing into the clouds, just moments before it crashed into the hillside.
According to the NTSB, a witness from a mountain bike trail in the hills saw glimps of the helicopter at a short distance from him – emerging from clouds and rolling to the left, before it crashed only seconds later.
The pilot – Ara Zobayan – was an experienced helicopter pilot and certified instructor. The NTSB said Zobayan was flying by VFR (Visual Flight Rules), instead of IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) during the entirety of the fatal flight, while he was licensed to fly by instruments. The helicopter charter company though – Island Express Helicopters – was not, the report said.
Only moments before radar contact was lost with Kobe Bryant’s helicopter, Zobayan had told ATC (Air Traffic Control) he was trying to climb above the clouds, the NTSB also said.
The wreckage of the Sikorsky helicopter was found in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, which is located near the town of Calabasas, about 40 miles (64 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The NTSB said these conclusions on the cause of the crash will be published in a final report and that the agency will continue the investigation.
The final report will be expected in 12 to 18 months.
(Head image: NTSB)